Department of Physics @ Carnegie Mellon

Theoretical and Computational Biological Physics

 

Part of the Biological Physics Initiative
Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Physics

www.cmu.edu
 
  budding simulation  

Teaching

   

Spring 2017

Statistical Physics (33-765)

lecturer: Markus Deserno

12 units, MWF 9:30am—10:20am, WeH 7316; recitation: M 1:30pm—2:20pm, DH A200

Statistical Physics attempts to explain macroscopic phenomena in terms of underlying microscopic laws. The large-scale behavior of systems, which we characterize by means of a small number of variables, emerges after eliminating the many microscopic degrees of freedom of their fundamental constituents. These generally unobservable degrees of freedom are far too numerous to follow, but precisely for this reason they can be treated statistically, making use of the law of large numbers and the central limit theorem: averages of a large number of random variables tend to converge to well defined distribution functions, and their relative fluctuations become smaller than other experimental errors. For instance, the pressure of a gas, the electric conductivity of a wire, or the Young modulus of rubber result from a proper statistical treatment of gas molecules, electrons in a solid, and entangled polymer chains, respectively. For this reason, Statistical Physics is the microscopic foundation of Thermodynamics.

This course provides a thorough graduate-level introduction into this subject, following the recent textbook "An Introduction to Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics" by Robert H. Swendsen.

The course web-page can be found here.

PffP textbook

 

Fall 2016

Physics and Engineering of Complex Fluids

(joint between Physics, 33-785, and ChemE, 06-779)

lecturer: Markus Deserno and Bob Tilton

12 units, MW 1:30pm—3:20pm, DH A200

Complex fluids, also known as soft matter, exhibit many properties and behaviors that are intermediate between those of classic liquids and solids—such as the preeminent role of entropy, a wide spectrum of long relaxation times, the ease with which they can be driven beyond linear response, viscoelasticity, and many more. Not all complex fluids feature all of these aspects, but they often occur together, and in each case result from additional structures that exist or emerge within the material. They come with their own characteristic length scales—beyond atomistic but still microscopic—which enable many new types of interactions and ordering, and they underlie the wide spectrum of energies, rates, or moduli that are the hallmark of such systems. Examples of complex fluids are ubiquitous in daily life and widespread in industry and nature. The key to explaining and manipulating their properties lies in understanding how their characteristic supramolecular organization emerges from the underlying molecular forces, and hence these systems offer countless exciting questions for both engineers and scientists. The goal of this course is to give a joint engineering and science perspective on complex fluids: we will show how many real world problems and applications pose foundational scientific questions that inspire theoretical models and explanations, which in turn enable progress in many areas of engineering and design.

 

 

Spring 2016

Statistical Physics (33-765)

lecturer: Markus Deserno

12 units, MWF 9:30am—10:20am, WeH 7316; recitation: M 1:30pm—2:20pm, DH A200

Statistical Physics attempts to explain macroscopic phenomena in terms of underlying microscopic laws. The large-scale behavior of systems, which we characterize by means of a small number of variables, emerges after eliminating the many microscopic degrees of freedom of their fundamental constituents. These generally unobservable degrees of freedom are far too numerous to follow, but precisely for this reason they can be treated statistically, making use of the law of large numbers and the central limit theorem: averages of a large number of random variables tend to converge to well defined distribution functions, and their relative fluctuations become smaller than other experimental errors. For instance, the pressure of a gas, the electric conductivity of a wire, or the Young modulus of rubber result from a proper statistical treatment of gas molecules, electrons in a solid, and entangled polymer chains, respectively. For this reason, Statistical Physics is the microscopic foundation of Thermodynamics.

This course provides a thorough graduate-level introduction into this subject, following the recent textbook "An Introduction to Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics" by Robert H. Swendsen.

PffP textbook

 

Spring 2015

Statistical Physics (33-765)

lecturer: Markus Deserno

12 units, MWF 9:30am—10:20am, WeH 7316

Statistical Physics attempts to explain macroscopic phenomena in terms of underlying microscopic laws. The large-scale behavior of systems, which we characterize by means of a small number of variables, emerges after eliminating the many microscopic degrees of freedom of their fundamental constituents. These generally unobservable degrees of freedom are far too numerous to follow, but precisely for this reason they can be treated statistically, making use of the law of large numbers and the central limit theorem: averages of a large number of random variables tend to converge to well defined distribution functions, and their relative fluctuations become smaller than other experimental errors. For instance, the pressure of a gas, the electric conductivity of a wire, or the Young modulus of rubber result from a proper statistical treatment of gas molecules, electrons in a solid, and entangled polymer chains, respectively. For this reason, Statistical Physics is the microscopic foundation of Thermodynamics.

This course provides a thorough graduate-level introduction into this subject, following the recent textbook "An Introduction to Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics" by Robert H. Swendsen.

PffP textbook

 

Spring 2014

Statistical Physics (33-765)

lecturer: Markus Deserno

12 units, MWF 9:30am—10:20am, WeH 7316

Statistical Physics attempts to explain macroscopic phenomena in terms of underlying microscopic laws. The large-scale behavior of systems, which we characterize by means of a small number of variables, emerges after eliminating the many microscopic degrees of freedom of their fundamental constituents. These generally unobservable degrees of freedom are far too numerous to follow, but precisely for this reason they can be treated statistically, making use of the law of large numbers and the central limit theorem: averages of a large number of random variables tend to converge to well defined distribution functions, and their relative fluctuations become smaller than other experimental errors. For instance, the pressure of a gas, the electric conductivity of a wire, or the Young modulus of rubber result from a proper statistical treatment of gas molecules, electrons in a solid, and entangled polymer chains, respectively. For this reason, Statistical Physics is the microscopic foundation of Thermodynamics.

This course provides a thorough graduate-level introduction into this subject, following the recent textbook "An Introduction to Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics" by Robert H. Swendsen.

PffP textbook

 

Fall 2013

Physics for future Presidents (33-115)

lecturers: Markus Deserno & Gregg Franklin

10 units, MWF 02:30—03:20PM, DH 1212

Countless topics of social and political importance are intimately related to science in general and physics in particular. Examples include energy production, global warming, radioactivity, terrorism, and space travel. This course aims to provide key bits of knowledge based on which such issues can be discussed in a meaningful way, i.e., on the level of arguments and not just vague beliefs. We will cover an unusually wide range of topics, including energy, heat, gravity, atoms, radioactivity, chain reactions, electricity, magnetism, waves, light, weather, and climate. No calculus and only very elementary algebra will be required. The course is open for all students at CMU.

The course web-page can be found here.

PffP textbook

 

Spring 2013

Statistical Physics (33-765)

lecturer: Markus Deserno

12 units, MWF 9:30am—10:20am, WeH 7316

Statistical Physics attempts to explain macroscopic phenomena in terms of underlying microscopic laws. The large-scale behavior of systems, which we characterize by means of a small number of variables, emerges after eliminating the many microscopic degrees of freedom of their fundamental constituents. These generally unobservable degrees of freedom are far too numerous to follow, but precisely for this reason they can be treated statistically, making use of the law of large numbers and the central limit theorem: averages of a large number of random variables tend to converge to well defined distribution functions, and their relative fluctuations become smaller than other experimental errors. For instance, the pressure of a gas, the electric conductivity of a wire, or the Young modulus of rubber result from a proper statistical treatment of gas molecules, electrons in a solid, and entangled polymer chains, respectively. For this reason, Statistical Physics is the microscopic foundation of Thermodynamics.

This course provides a thorough graduate-level introduction into this subject, following the recent textbook "An Introduction to Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics" by Robert H. Swendsen.

PffP textbook

 

Fall 2012

Physics for future Presidents (33-115)

lecturers: Markus Deserno & Gregg Franklin

10 units, MWF 02:30—03:20PM, DH A301

Countless topics of social and political importance are intimately related to science in general and physics in particular. Examples include energy production, global warming, radioactivity, terrorism, and space travel. This course aims to provide key bits of knowledge based on which such issues can be discussed in a meaningful way, i.e., on the level of arguments and not just vague beliefs. We will cover an unusually wide range of topics, including energy, heat, gravity, atoms, radioactivity, chain reactions, electricity, magnetism, waves, light, weather, and climate. No calculus or algebra will be required. The course is open for all students at CMU.

PffP textbook

 

Spring 2012

Biophysics: From Basic Concepts to Current Research (33-767)

lecturer: Markus Deserno and Mathias Lösche

12 units, WF 1:30AM—2:50PM DH A200

Biological Physics aims to apply the principles of physics and the methods of mathematical analysis and computer modeling to understand how biological systems work. This course serves as an introduction into this discipline, suitable as a one-semester course for students not necessarily specializing in this area. It will both provide the necessary general concepts, as well as follow some selected topics up to the current frontier of research. Prerequisite: 33-765 or permission of instructor. The course will use the textbook "Physical Biology of the Cell" by Rob Phillips, Jane Kondev, and Julie Theriot, as well as other sources and selected original papers.

Physical Biology of the Cell

 

Fall 2011

Physics for future Presidents (33-115)

lecturers: Markus Deserno & Gregg Franklin

10 units, MWF 02:30—03:20PM, DH 2315

Countless topics of social and political importance are intimately related to science in general and physics in particular. Examples include energy production, global warming, radioactivity, terrorism, and space travel. This course aims to provide key bits of knowledge based on which such issues can be discussed in a meaningful way, i.e., on the level of arguments and not just vague beliefs. We will cover an unusually wide range of topics, including energy, heat, gravity, atoms, radioactivity, chain reactions, electricity, magnetism, waves, light, weather, and climate. No calculus or algebra will be required. The course is open for all students at CMU.

PffP textbook

 

Spring 2011

Biophysics: From Basic Concepts to Current Research (33-767)

lecturer: Markus Deserno

12 units, MWF 1:30AM—2:20PM DH A200

Biological Physics aims to apply the principles of physics and the methods of mathematical analysis and computer modeling to understand how biological systems work. This course serves as an introduction into this discipline, suitable as a one-semester course for students not necessarily specializing in this area. It will both provide the necessary general concepts, as well as follow some selected topics up to the current frontier of research. Prerequisite: 33-765 or permission of instructor. The course will use the textbook "Physical Biology of the Cell" by Rob Phillips, Jane Kondev, and Julie Theriot, as well as other sources and selected original papers.

Physical Biology of the Cell

 

Fall 2010

Physics for future Presidents (33-115)

lecturers: Markus Deserno & Gregg Franklin

10 units, MWF 02:30—03:20PM, DH 2315

Countless topics of social and political importance are intimately related to science in general and physics in particular. Examples include energy production, global warming, radioactivity, terrorism, and space travel. This course aims to provide key bits of knowledge based on which such issues can be discussed in a meaningful way, i.e., on the level of arguments and not just vague beliefs. We will cover an unusually wide range of topics, including energy, heat, gravity, atoms, radioactivity, chain reactions, electricity, magnetism, waves, light, weather, and climate. No calculus or algebra will be required. The course is open for all students at CMU.

PffP textbook

 

Spring 2010

Biophysics: From Basic Concepts to Current Research (33-767)

lecturer: Markus Deserno

12 units, MWF 1:30AM—2:20PM DH A200

Biological Physics aims to apply the principles of physics and the methods of mathematical analysis and computer modeling to understand how biological systems work. This course serves as an introduction into this discipline, suitable as a one-semester course for students not necessarily specializing in this area. It will both provide the necessary general concepts, as well as follow some selected topics up to the current frontier of research. Prerequisite: 33-765 or permission of instructor. This year I'll try a new textbook: Physical Biology of the Cell by Rob Phillips, Jane Kondev, and Julie Theriot, as well as selected original papers.

Physical Biology of the Cell

 

Fall 2009

Physics for future Presidents (33-115)

lecturers: Markus Deserno & Gregg Franklin

10 units, MWF 02:30—03:20PM, DH 2315

Countless topics of social and political importance are intimately related to science in general and physics in particular. Examples include energy production, global warming, radioactivity, terrorism, and space travel. This course aims to provide key bits of knowledge based on which such issues can be discussed in a meaningful way, i.e., on the level of arguments and not just vague beliefs. We will cover an unusually wide range of topics, including energy, heat, gravity, atoms, radioactivity, chain reactions, electricity, magnetism, waves, light, weather, and climate. No calculus or algebra will be required. The course is open for all students at CMU.

PffP textbook

 

Spring 2009

Biophysics: From Basic Concepts to Current Research (33-767)

lecturers: Markus Deserno & Maumita Mandal

12 units, MWF 11:30AM—12:20PM MI 448

Biological Physics aims to apply the principles of physics and the methods of mathematical analysis and computer modeling to understand how biological systems work. This course serves as an introduction into this discipline, suitable as a one-semester course for students not necessarily specializing in this area. It will both provide the necessary general concepts, as well as follow some selected topics up to the current frontier of research. Prerequisite: 33-765 or permission of instructor. Typical text: P. Nelson, Biological Physics, as well as selected original papers.

Nelson Biophysics Book

 

Fall 2008

Physics II for Science Students (33-112)

lecturers: Markus Deserno & Kunal Ghosh

12 units, MWF 09:30— 10:20AM, WEH 5403

This is the second semester course that follows 33-111. Electricity and magnetism is developed, including the following topics: Coulomb's law, polarization, electric field, electric potential, DC circuits, magnetic field and force, magnetic induction, and the origins of electromagnetic waves.

matter and interactions II

 

Spring 2008

Biophysics: From Basic Concepts to Current Research (33-767)

lecturers: Markus Deserno & Mathias Lösche

12 units, TR 2:30PM—4:10PM DH A200

Biological Physics aims to apply the principles of physics and the methods of mathematical analysis and computer modeling to understand how biological systems work. This course serves as an introduction into this discipline, suitable as a one-semester course for students not necessarily specializing in this area. It will both provide the necessary general concepts, as well as follow some selected topics up to the current frontier of research. Prerequisite: 33-765 or permission of instructor. Typical text: P. Nelson, Biological Physics, as well as selected original papers.

Nelson Biophysics Book

 

 

Scherk's minimal surface

Looking for a postdoc, PhD position or under-graduate research project or similar? Have a look at our announcements!

twisted torus

Funding:

NIH

NSF

 

Volkswagenstiftung